There are all sorts of alternative therapies out there to explore for period pain, and when it gets really bad, you might be tempted to try a few on for size to see if they make a difference to your pains and overall wellbeing. Let’s take a closer look at reflexology, the pressure points involved, and whether or not this can be an effective relief for period pain. Prepare your tootsies!
Reflexology is essentially a foot massage, but with a little more strategy to it. By applying specific amounts of pressure to the feet, it is believed that you can connect to organs and systems throughout your body, and influence them to promote certain health benefits.
Some swear by this technique, while others claim a lack of scientific evidence to make the effects plausible. At the end of the day, whether it's effective or a placebo; if it works for you, it works for you. While the science does put this technique into question as a legitimate medical treatment, there’s nothing to say that your toes can’t be the key to your tummy ache, so give it a go - you never know!
Though some say that reflexology has helped them fix back problems and fight cancer, these suggestions should be taken with a pinch (or two) of salt, as there is no scientific evidence to show that there is any truth to these claims.
That said, reflexology is thought to be able to help with reducing general pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and improving wellbeing. In fact, some strong studies have shown that reflexology can have many beneficial effects on anxiety, so it’s certainly worth a try if you suffer from any of the above.
Reflexology is essentially massaging the feet, so it’s considered a very safe and even enjoyable therapy to receive, even if you have a serious health condition. That said, it’s recommended that people speak to their doctor if they suffer from certain health issues, such as circulatory problems, blood clots or inflammation of the leg veins, gout, foot ulcers, thyroid problems, epilepsy, or anything else you may be concerned about. And of course, if you have a case of the ol’ tickly feet syndrome, you may want to avoid!
Lastly, if you’re pregnant and keen to visit a reflexologist, definitely let them know before your session, as some pressure points are thought to induce contractions… best avoid those!
Some who receive reflexology have reported mild side effects such as lightheadedness and emotional sensitivity, so keep this in mind if you choose to try it.
Studies vary on exactly which pressure points affect each part of the body, but typically it is thought that key points on the soles of the feet affect specific areas. For example, the outside arches of the feet are thought to be linked to back pain, so this is where your reflexologist might concentrate their efforts if you have an achy back.
The below diagram from Massagaholic gives a general overview of which areas you may want to focus on if you are targeting a specific condition.
It’s the big question! And the answer is… maybe. Some studies have found reflexology could be as effective as taking ibuprofen, and that in itself could be enough reason to give it a try, as many of us would agree that an alternative to popping pills is usually best.
There is evidence to suggest that focusing on reflex points in the feet could affect the endocrine system and possibly even the reproductive system, which is responsible for hormone production. If this is the case, reflexology could in fact help alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - yes please!
Want to give it a try next time you’re reaching for the hot water bottle and the painkillers? Then you’ll likely want to focus on one particular spot, named ‘Liver 3’, which is thought to soothe cramps and regulate menstruation. You’ll find this one about an inch below the spot between your big and second toe.
If this doesn’t work for you, you don’t need to give up entirely on using pressure points. There are other places on the body that could be more effective for you - here’s a quick guide you might find handy.
Have you ever tried reflexology for period pains? Did it work for you, or is it a lot of woo-woo? Let us know your thoughts over on Instagram at @itsyoppie! Still, you've got enough going on at that time of the month even if you aren't getting a foot rub, so don't forget that our personalised period subscription box can get organic cotton tampons, PMS supplements, and much more, delivered through your letterbox. That's a few less things to worry about each cycle!
Fact checked by Doctor Samantha Miller.
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